Old Reading Beer

When the Old Reading Beer billboard went up over Penn Square overlooking Reading, Pennsylvania’s downtown retail district it was advertised as the largest animated sign in the state.

This was the end of the 1930s, Prohibition had been repealed a few years before and the Reading Brewery, founded in 1886, returned to its advertising campaign for “Pennsylvania Dutch beer” by having these neon-lit, cartoon beermeisters prance around the top of their billboard with steins for everyone. After World War II, however, the billboard and advertising campaign seemed out of date. Beer sales slid and in 1952 Old Reading became, “The Friendly Beer for Friendly People.” In 1958, the ‘Old’ was dropped for a new name, Reading Premium Beer, “The Friendly Beer for Modern People.” None of this bode well for quaintly animated, stein-toasting, neon-lit beermeisters who had been replaced by a Modernist clock by 1948. Reading Beer’s billboard was balanced by local competitor Sunshine Beer’s billboard advertising from the opposite side of Penn Square. Reading Beer retooled its Penn Square billboard several times into the 1960s, the brewery surviving until 1976.

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